Stadium corners the view Designers' game plan: Notched upper facade offers views of city

March 08, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

Striving to duplicate the sense of openness that fans like so much about Oriole Park, architects of the football stadium planned for Camden Yards propose to carve away its four corners to give spectators dramatic views of the city beyond.

Representatives for HOK Sports Facilities Group, the lead architect for the football stadium, unveiled preliminary drawings yesterday that indicate they plan to create viewing slots or notches in the stadium's facade so people will be able to look into and out of the seating bowl just as they can at Oriole Park.

They also intend to create an upper concourse around the perimeter that will offer views of the city from about eight stories up.

"We think this is a kind of a first," Bruce H. Hoffman, Maryland Stadium Authority executive director, told members of Baltimore's Architectural Review Board during his presentation for the $175 million stadium, due to open in August 1998.

"We have been able to create substantial breaks in the seating bowl that we think are going to bring a variety of views both into and out of the building, which I think will add a lot of interest," architect Joseph Spear told the five-member design panel. "We think it's a unique solution."

In sculpting the seating area, the design team "tried to take advantage of specific views out of the building," added architect Craig Meyer. "It's not a typical bowl."

The architects stressed that they are still at the very preliminary stages of designing a 68,400-seat football stadium for NFL owner Art Modell, who is moving his team from Cleveland.

The preliminary plans also indicate that the stadium will:

Look neither old-fashioned nor futuristic, but "classical."

Create a new gateway to the city from the south.

Accommodate rock concerts, other nonsports events and college football games.

Approval of the stadium's funding is expected from the state legislature by mid-April.

The site occupies the southern half of Baltimore's 85-acre Camden Yards sports district, south of Oriole Park and Hamburg Street and east of Russell Street. HOK is working with the land planning firm of Wallace, Roberts and Todd from Philadelphia.

The designers said they want to make the football stadium compatible with Oriole Park, which they also designed and which has received rave reviews since its opening in 1992.

But in their first presentation of the design, they stressed that they aren't trying to make an exact copy of the baseball park. "Where we're building the football stadium is literally a different neighborhood, a different part of the city," said Mr. Spear, who led the design effort for Oriole Park. "Those two factors allow us to think that they can be quite different buildings.

"It ought to be related, we agree," he said. But "we don't want to have people look at these buildings and say they are twins or sisters. 'Cousins' is more the way we'd want to have them described."

Mr. Spear also said the football stadium will not be intentionally "old-fashioned" in the way the baseball stadium was, and it will not be futuristic. He prefers the word "classical."

He said the design team studied Ivy League football stadiums and older parks such as Soldier Field in Chicago and wants fans to develop the same kind of emotional attachment to the new stadium that they might have for a cherished college stadium.

The initial drawings show that the upper levels will be open to the elements. Proposed exterior materials are the same as those on Oriole Park: brick and precast concrete, with arches around the base and access ramps that form part of the outer walls.

There will be three levels:

A lower level with 31,000 seats

A middle "club" level with 7,500 seats -- 3,750 along both sidelines.

An upper deck with 27,000 seats -- about 4,000 along each end zone and 9,500 along each of the sidelines.

One way to make the new stadium distinctive and yet familiar, Mr. Spear said, was to break it up with the notches.

"It's considerably larger than the other ballpark," he said. "What we tried to do is break it down into more discrete elements. What we think is very interesting is that you'll catch glimpses of the skyline and you'll be able to see into the seating bowl" from elevated roads all around.

The design team is also striving to create a more "muscular" structure for the football stadium, he said, as an architectural metaphor for the difference between a baseball team and a football team.

"You have very delicate, lacy, exposed steel for the baseball park," he said. "The idea here is that we did want to have exposed steel again, but a football stadium is a much more muscular building. What we've come up with is, we think, a very graceful but muscular solution to the support of the upper deck. It's steel, but it's a very different detail."

Big differences

In their presentation, the architects noted several other ways that the football stadium will differ from the 4-year-old ballpark:

It will seat 20,000 more people -- 68,400 as opposed to 48,000 for Oriole Park.

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